A Revamp for Woodley Park’s Marilyn Mural

The iconic Marilyn mural in Woodley Park has received a much-needed revamp, as John Kelly reports for the Washington Post.

“‘That shading looks so good!’ artist Kevin Irvin exclaimed last week as Andrew Funk applied pink highlights to the pouting, cherry-red lips of the two-story Marilyn Monroe mural that has gazed down upon Woodley Park for 39 years. The mural was painted in 1981 by John Bailey, who was hired by hairdressers Roi Barnard and Charles Stinson to transform the side of the building that housed their salon, known today as Salon Roi. It was one of the first large-scale artworks in a city that’s become famed for them.

Marilyn Monroe is sort of the spirit animal for Roi. At age 82, Roi still comes into the salon three days a week. (Stinson died in 1987.) For years, Roi noticed that the mural — last refreshed in 2001 — was looking a little sad, more faded Miss Havisham than sexy ‘Happy Birthday, Mr. President.’ And so with the help of D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh, money was appropriated to repaint the mural. Roi said Kevin — a Winchester, Va., artist who goes by Jazirock — was the perfect person for the job.

Kevin grew up in southwest Baltimore in an impoverished neighborhood. He first saw the Marilyn mural in 1983 through the window of a school bus. He was a fourth-grader on a field trip to the National Zoo. ‘I didn’t know what it was. I just knew it was huge,’ he said of the painting at Connecticut Avenue and Calvert Street NW.

Kevin showed some of his works at Artomatic, then became an informal intern for master D.C. muralist Byron Peck, who taught him the basics of the craft … It was Peck who introduced Kevin to a German brand of paint called Keim. It’s the most expensive material Kevin’s ever used. The quart of red for Marilyn’s lips cost $137. The manufacturer claims it will last 50 years.

When I joined the pair on the roof last Wednesday, ladders were leaning against Marilyn’s eyes, resembling the tracks of her tears. The hum of a large air-handling unit competed with the sound of traffic below. A pigeon peered over the lip of the adjoining building, then waddled away. Getting so close to the massive painting was exhilarating, like standing in the crown of the Statue of Liberty.

A few days later, Kevin declared the facelift complete. He and Andrew had brightened Marilyn’s face with bold colors and renewed her striking beauty mark. The actress’s mirrored eye highlights — dulled by the elements — had been replaced. A new pair of circular mirrors were epoxied in place. The formerly red-brick wall to the left of Marilyn’s face had been covered in black paint, making the mural pop even more.

Roi is hoping Woodley Park Main Street, a business development group, will soon organize an event rededicating the Marilyn mural. He has another idea, too: ‘After we have that party, I may drape her with a black mask with sequins. I thought it would be a hoot. Also, we’re making a statement: Wear your damn mask. Just wear it.'”